Book Review | Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao

Authour:
Julie C. Dao
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
November 5th 2019
Publisher:
Philomel
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
Here’s the thing, fantasy has never been a genre that I gravitated towards. That being said, I never knew how much I wanted a Vietnamese YA fantasy world novel with characters who have actual Vietnamese names until I read Julie C. Dao’s Song of the Crimson Flower.

Having read Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, I was excited to return to the same gorgeous world again and see how Jade and Koichi are faring. I also loved how Commander Wei’s role was hilariously foreshadowed when the father of the heroine, Lan tells her she can visit the Gray City if she somehow convinces the Commander of the Great Forest to escort her there. Of course it was also interesting to see the mythology and world expanded from the previous books in addition to how things have changed a couple of years after the events the Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix.

However, the central plot of Song of the Crimson Flower is Lan and Bao’s story. I was looking forward to their love story and while I wish the romance was better developed, particularly on Lan’s part I did find their relationship to be sweet. When it came to other parts of the story I was a bit disappointed. The antagonist, Madame Vy wasn’t fully realized as a serious threat or even as a character. She had the potential to be a major villain, but instead was relegated to the background for the majority of the book. Actually, I was also slightly disappointed that even though the stakes could have been high, they truly weren’t in the end as all major conflicts and battles were swiftly dealt with off-screen. So as much as I enjoyed Bao and Lan’s story, I would have preferred that we had at least a glimpse of the main battle that took place as there was so much hype surrounding the battle/war.

As a companion book to both Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix and Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, Song of the Crimson Flower is more of a love story set in a fantasy world and not a full on fantasy novel. Therefore, it is not necessary to have read the other books to enjoy this standalone novel. Still, without a doubt I would say that my enjoyment for Song of the Crimson Flower exceeded that of Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. Having recently returned from a trip to Huế which was one the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty as well as the Đàng Trong Kingdom, I was able to better appreciate the rich setting and characters in this book. Beautifully written though not incredibly action packed, Song of the Crimson Flower may be more suited to those who are looking to dip their toes into the fantasy genre rather than for fans of true high or epic fantasy.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao

Authour:
Julie C. Dao
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
November 6th 2018
Publisher:
Philomel Book
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
I’ve said it before, and I should probably say it again fantasy fiction is typically not my cup of tea. That behind said, I occasionally enjoy a magical fairy tale retelling. Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is a Snow White retelling with an Asian cast and setting. As it is the second book and a companion novel to Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, I wasn’t sure what to expect. 

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix takes place 15 years after the events of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. The heroine this time is Jade, who is the true heir to the Feng Lu. As a protagonist, I found Jade to be likeable and it was not at all difficult to root for her and her comrades. I also liked that despite being the heroine of the book, the individuals that chose to accompany Jade’s on her journey were also fleshed out with their own motivations and backstories. However, as a result of this I also felt that we barely scratched the surface of who Jade truly was as there was not much time spent with her. Moreover, I also would have liked to have seen more of Jade and her comrades working together and not having them be separated. 

On the other hand, what I loved about Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix was how the story was set in the world of Chinese mythology. Dao’s prose is exquisite and her descriptions of the setting and the various magical items such as the cloak gifted to Jade were incredibly lush, that I felt like I was actually transported into the world of the book. Furthermore, I appreciated how the third person omniscient narration of the book gave the story a Chinese folklore kind of feel. What I wasn’t too fond of was how the ending felt a bit rushed, the final battle happened so quickly and in such an intense manner that it gave me whiplash reading those scenes.

If you love the diverse representation in the fantasy, YA genre, then Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix may be the book for you. I went into it without reading Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and was still able to enjoy the book. A heartwarming story about the strength and power of love particularly familial love, this one surprisingly lived up to most of the wonderful praise its received.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.